WikiLeaks published thousands of documents on Tuesday described as secret files about CIA hacking tools that the government employs to break into users' computers, mobile phones and even smart TVs from companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung.
The documents describe clandestine methods for bypassing or defeating encryption, antivirus tools and other protective security features intended to keep the private information of citizens and corporations safe from prying eyes.
US government employees, including President Donald Trump, use many of the same products and internet services purportedly compromised by the tools.
The documents describe CIA efforts – cooperating with friendly foreign governments and the US National Security Agency – to subvert the world's most popular technology platforms, including Apple's iPhones and iPads, Google's Android phones and the Microsoft Windows operating system for desktop computers and laptops.
They also include discussions about compromising some internet-connected televisions to turn them into listening posts. One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, indicating the CIA's interest in hacking modern cars with sophisticated on-board computers.
Jonathan Liu, CIA SpokesmanWe do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer also declined comment.
WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents. Experts, who've started to sift through the material, said it appeared legitimate and the release was almost certain to shake the CIA.
“There’s no question that there’s a fire drill going on right now,” said Jake Williams, a security expert with Augusta, Georgia-based Rendition Infosec. “It wouldn’t surprise if there are people changing careers and ending careers as we speak.”
If it did prove legitimate, the dump would represent yet another catastrophic breach for the US intelligence community at the hands of WikiLeaks and its allies, which have repeatedly humbled Washington with the mass release of classified material, including hundreds of thousands of documents from the State Department and the Pentagon.
WikiLeaks Claims Samsung Smart TVs Among CIA’s Weapons For Surveillance
WikiLeaks claims the CIA worked with UK intelligence officials to turn microphones in TVs into listening devices.
Samsung smart TVs have microphones so viewers can make voice commands, such as requests for movie recommendations. The commands typically aren't transmitted outside the home unless users activate the feature. If the TV is off, there's no listening being done.
But WikiLeaks claims that documents it obtained show that through a program called Weeping Angel, the target TV appears to be off when it is actually on – and listening.
WikiLeaks said the audio goes to a covert CIA server rather than a party authorised by Samsung. In such cases, audio isn't limited to TV commands but could include everyday conversations.